Experts in Frankfurt, Germany defused a World War II-era bomb yesterday, after more than 60,000 people, the most since World War II, evacuated from the area.
The HC 4000 blockbuster bomb, dropped by the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, was discovered days ago near the Goethe University Frankfurt campus in a construction site. Fire chiefs warned its reportedly 1.4 tons of explosives could have destroyed an entire city block.
Residents of the Westend neighbourhood, including those of two nearby hospitals, were asked to evacuate by 8 a.m. local time (0600 UTC), though the bomb removal process only began around 2:30 p.m., as the evacuation drew on. Just after 8 a.m., Markus Röck, a spokesman for the Frankfurt fire brigade, said: “The situation is relaxed which is a good sign and everything so far is going according to plan. We will now assess if everybody has left voluntarily and go from house to house and remove people if necessary.”
About 1,100 workers assisted with the evacuation, according to the fire brigade, and helicopters and heat-detection technology were used to check everyone within 1.5 kilometres, about 1 mile, had left. A convention centre and concert hall opened to house people, and at museums and the airport, other activities were offered for free.
When the area near the bomb was evaluated, other parts of the city became more populated. Peter Cachola Schmal, director of the German Architecture Museum, remarked, “It’s a different atmosphere here today, because people are settling for a longer time[…] People are coming here to sit with their laptop and work, for example, or read the newspaper for hours.”
Fire brigade director Reinhard Ries said, “the scale of this bomb is overwhelming. I have never seen anything like it.”
Likely thousands of unexploded bombs from the era remain across Germany, and reportedly eleven bomb defusal technicians have been killed there since 2000. Devices may become more unstable as time wears on and their fuses age.